Vote

Lancaster County voters cast their ballots in 2016.

THE ISSUE

Voters in Lancaster County and around Pennsylvania will go to the polls Tuesday to elect candidates for offices at the local, county and state levels and answer a statewide ballot question. There are also judge retention questions to be answered locally and statewide. Lancaster County polls will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you don’t know the location of your polling place, go online to votespa.com.

This may be an “off-year” election, but the ballots will be full for county voters.

Like other voters in Pennsylvania, they’ll be deciding whether to support or oppose the “Marsy’s Law” crime victims’ rights state constitutional amendment (for which the votes will temporarily not be counted while it’s tied up in the courts) and candidates for a pair of vacancies on the state’s Superior Court.

There are also four statewide judicial retention elections for incumbent judges on the Superior and Commonwealth courts.

At the county level, voters will choose a new district attorney and prothonotary, among other offices, and a new Court of Common Pleas judge; decide on the retention of an incumbent judge; and elect county commissioners.

Last but not least, at the municipal level, voters will decide on school board members, township supervisors/commissioners and other offices.

Why should you take the time to cast a ballot Tuesday? It’s pretty simple, really.

“These are the people who are the direct providers of local services,” Doug Hill, of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, told The Associated Press. “So it’s vitally important for people to come out (and vote).”

“Though municipal elections don’t come with the same cachet and controversy that lace presidential and congressional races, they’re important, and the results will impact your day-to-day lives,” we wrote in a November 2017 editorial. “The U.S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout, according to Pew Research Center. That fact suggests, among other things, that we take our right to vote in free elections for granted. We shouldn’t.”

And we should remember that voting is a duty of citizenship and a right in this country — hard-won for women and African Americans via amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the civil rights movement.

In May 2018, the LNP Editorial Board wrote: “In elections, your opinion — yours — is being sought. Candidates are asking you to weigh in on their suitability for the positions they seek. What is there not to like about this?”

Maybe if more voters saw themselves as employers, and local candidates as prospective job applicants, we’d have more turnout in nonpresidential election years (though even the turnout percentages in presidential years are distressing).

We are, however, encouraged by the number of election-related letters we’ve received, including many about the Manheim Township commissioner and school board races, and a number concerning the district attorney contest.

We’ll close with the words of two of our letter writers on why voting matters:

“There are a variety of excuses given for (not voting in an off-year election), such as ‘I don’t have time,’ ‘My vote doesn’t count,’ etc.,” wrote Stephen L. Patrick, of Rapho Township. “All these are pathetic at best. Elections have consequences. ... Democracy is always a fragile entity. It can only exist as long as its citizens are willing to fight for it. ... Local elections stand on the same level as state or national contests if for no other reason than the immediacy of the effects local governments have on the individual. Thus it is vital for the citizen to both register and take the time to vote. ... For the sake of not only yourselves but for those who will come after you, make the time to vote.”

Jeffrey Thal, of Manheim Township, wrote: “Participation in odd-year elections has been historically low, and it just baffles me. ... These elections are the ones that have the most direct influence on our daily lives — township and county commissioners, judges, school boards. The candidates in these elections are not politicians; they are our friends and neighbors, asking us to give them our trust to make the decisions that determine how our tax dollars are spent, how our laws are applied, how our children are educated.

“In an era of diminished expectations from our leaders, we have the opportunity right now to do something to make our community a better place to live. What possible reason could we have for skipping out on this responsibility, thinking that good enough is good enough, when there is so much at stake?”

So please vote. If you’re already a regular voter who doesn’t need to be reminded, thank you. If you’re an occasional voter who tends to disappear in election years that end in 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9, don’t sit this one out.

And if you just registered to vote, congratulations — but don’t wait till 2020 to exercise your suffrage!

FIND MORE ONLINE: bit.ly/LNPvotersguide